The UFC travels back across the pond this weekend for a matinee fight night complete with a plethora of British fighters adorning the card. Sitting atop the fight card is a heavyweight matchup with rising star Tom Aspinall who will look to impress the home crowd as he takes on Marcin Tybura. Aspinall is fighting for the first time since he blew out his knee in a freak injury against Curtis Blaydes almost exactly one year ago. Tybura enters the fight on a two-fight winning streak, having bested Alexandr Romanov and Blagoy Ivanov in his last two bouts. He looks to make it three straight victories while spoiling the return of Aspinall.
The women’s flyweight division is featured in the co-main event as fan favorite Molly “Meatball” McCann squares off against Julija Stoliarenko. McCann stumbled the last time she saw action inside the Octagon when she was submitted by Erin Blanchfield. She will have to be sure to be wary of the submission threat once again this week as Stoliarenko is known as a finisher on the ground. Buoyed by a raucous crowd, a victory for McCann would go a long way in regaining the momentum she had just a short time ago.
The event airs live in its entirety on ESPN+ starting at 12 p.m. ET.
Tom Aspinall hasn’t fought since his knee injury against Curtis Blaydes; does the hometown fighter get the job done this weekend in his return?
Kuhl: Tom Aspinall has never truly lost a UFC fight, and he’s still never been the distance in any pro fight. Of course, there are times that an injury is a legitimate loss, when caused by an opponent, but Curtis Blaydes had nothing to do with Aspinall’s injury in the Englishman’s last outing. At 30 years old, and bringing in an amazing ground game and a full head of steam on his home turf, I do believe the Englishman will be able to finish Marcin Tybura on Saturday in London. The Polish fighter is no pushover though.
Tybura is a former M-1 Global heavyweight champ, and that is arguably the toughest organization outside of the big four. He too has a solid ground game and is tough as hell. For both of these men, when I say “ground game,” I mean all-around, not just jiu-jitsu, even though both are BJJ black belts. However, I believe Aspinal has better striking prowess, and combining that with youth and a crowd that will be in his favor, I see him coming in, swarming, smothering and working his way toward a finish before the midpoint of Round 2.
Petela: Marcin Tybura has been around for quite some time. He has had some ups and downs throughout his seven plus years in the UFC but he has hit a groove recently and is fighting at the highest level of his career. He will be no walk in the park for Tom Aspinall but I agree that the Englishman gets this one done before the judges’ scorecards are needed.
This one comes down to Tom Aspinall just being half a notch better than Tybura everywhere the fight takes place. He will be the quicker man on the feet and be able to drain the cardio of the Polish stalwart with an effective jab to the face and hooks that dig to the body. This one will be a boxing match early on, with Aspinall clearly getting the better of a very technical showdown. By late in round one or early in round two, Tybura will have to change gameplans and try to get this one to the mat but expect his takedowns to be stifled and after a laborious scramble Aspinall will get top position and go to work. This one ends via ground-and-pound in Round 2, or, if Tybura survives to the third, he will get stopped with strikes on the feet early in Round 3.
Last time we saw Molly McCann she got submitted and had her three fight winning streak snapped; how does “Meatball” fare against Julija Stoliarenko?
Petela: Well, she will fare better than she did against Erin Blanchfield. That was exactly the one-sided affair we all expected. With all due respect to Julija Stoliarenko, she’s no Erin Blanchfield. She’s a good fighter no doubt, but Blanchfield is a phenom who has title aspirations. This fight should be competitive, but the style matchup is going to be difficult for McCann to shine.
Stoliarenko is a submission machine. Nine of her 10 wins have come via tap out, and McCann has been submitted twice in her career. That’s how she lost to Blanchfield. McCann’s fan-friendly style, at times, leaves her vulnerable to be taken down by over-committing to her strikes in order to land something flashy. But, I think we will see some improvement in that area early in the fight. McCann will be careful as the fight starts, trying to be more disciplined in order to keep the fight upright, but she is a fighter who very much feeds off of the crowd. Once the fans get rocking, and the “Meatball” chants start, McCann will start to look for the highlight-reel finish, find herself out of position and get taken down. Stoliarenko will then be in the driver’s seat and quickly force a frustrated McCann to tap before the end of the second round. The hype train is majorly derailed for McCann after this second loss in a row.
Kuhl: I agree 100-percent with Matt’s assessment, right up until the finish. Molly McCann will get taken down by Julija Stoliarenko, but she will rally to gain top position and rain down strikes en route to a TKO win.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Kuhl: There was a time when the MMA world thought Marc Diakiese was going to be a legitimate contender one day. He came into the UFC as a 9-0 prospect, and won his first three fight in the Octagon. However, that hype train hit the skids with a three-fight losing streak, and he now sits at 7-6 in the promotion and hasn’t finished anyone in over six years. His biggest accolade was going the distance with Rafael Fiziev in Jul. 2020, which earned him a “Fight of the Night” bonus. At this point, he is 1-3 in his last four outings, and his last fight, in Dec. 2022, ended in a decision loss to veteran Michael Johnson, who has had a rough four years. Four of Diakiese’s seven UFC wins have happened in England, which is essentially his home turf, so a loss to Spain’s Joel Alvarez would put his UFC career in jeopardy.
Petela: Danny “Hot Chocolate” Roberts. He is fighting at home and his back is certainly against the wall. He comes into this fight having lost two in a row and four of his last six. He is another fighter whose upper bound limits were once thought to be quite high but things just haven’t panned out that way for him. It doesn’t help that in five of his six losses in the UFC he has been finished before the final bell. If he doesn’t snag a win against Jonny Parsons he very well could find himself fighting in front of an English crowd in his next fight, back under the Cage Warriors banner.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Petela: Bryan Barberena moving up to middleweight to take on Makhmud Muradov. I’m intrigued to see Barberena up a weight class, it seems like there is a bonus in every single one of his fights. Sometimes that is because he gets his opponents to brawl with him and sometimes he is wildly overmatched and gets finished in dramatic fashion. He will be a tough test for Muradov, who is coming off two losses but prior to that scored back-to-back knockouts. No idea how this fight plays out, but it will be entertaining no matter what.
Kuhl: England’s Davey Grant and Preu’s Daniel Marcos are set to put on a total banger. Grant will be fighting on his home turf, after back-to-back third-round stoppage victories. The undefeated Marcos will be making his sophomore Octagon appearance after finishing Saimon Oliveira by second-round TKO in his promotional debut in January. These guys are both going to be looking to put a stop to this one early.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Kuhl: I think the winner of “Meatball” Molly McCann and Julija Stoliarenko will earn a performance bonus, as I do not expect this one to go the distance. I have MCann winning this one, but you can never count out the BJJ black belt, who could pull off her seventh professional submission win against a fighter who has only been stopped by submission. I do expect McCann to win this one by TKO, but, either way, the winner will likely have a little extra padding in her pocket.
Petela: Chris Duncan. “The Problem” is a Scotsman who squeaked out a win in his UFC debut and he is going to be looking to make a major statement in front of a London crowd. Only twice in his career has he won via decision, the rest are knockouts, so expect him to get the crowd roaring early with a knockout victory over Yanal Ashmouz. Dana White will have no choice but to reward the performance with an extra $50K.
Pair this card with…
Petela: I’d like to go with a British staple since I expect Tom Aspinall to score a big win for the home crowd but England isn’t exactly known for its cuisine. Instead, start your afternoon with Fuller’s London Pride and watch the British crowd erupt when Aspinall gets yet another finish in front of a friendly audience.
Kuhl: By now, we know the drill. Fish and chips all the way. And, I’m sure this will insult someone out there, but I would even settle for Long John Silver’s. Even the most staunch fish and chips enthusiast knows it’s good stuff.
Main Card (ESPN+, 3 p.m. ET)
HW: Tom Aspinall vs. Marcin Tybura
Women’s FlyW: Molly McCann vs. Julija Stoliarenko
FW: Nathaniel Wood vs. Andre Fili
MW: Andre Muniz vs. Paul Craig
LW: Jai Herbert vs. Fares Ziam
FW: Lerone Murphy vs. Josh Culibao
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 12 p.m. ET)
BW: Davey Grant vs. Daniel Marcos
WW: Danny Roberts vs. Jonny Parsons
LW: Marc Diakese vs. Joel Alvarez
HW: Mick Parkin vs. Jamal Pogues
MW: Bryan Barberena vs. Makhmud Muradov
Women’s BW: Ketlen Vieira vs. Pannie Kianzad
LW: Chris Duncan vs. Yanal Ashmouz
Women’s StrawW: Bruna Brasil vs. Shauna Bannon
FlyW: Jafel Filho vs. Daniel Barez
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